Netherlands: Wilders’ Freedom Party starts coalition talks with other parties

The extreme right-wing Freedom Party, which won the Dutch parliamentary elections, has appointed its mediator to negotiate with other political forces to form a coalition.

The scandalous far-right populist Geert Wilders at the head of the Dutch government? A week ago, it seemed impossible.

However, the early parliamentary elections on November 22 were sensationally won by the Freedom Party, which opposes the entry of migrants and military support for Ukraine and its accession into the EU. Wilders’ party won 37 seats out of 150 in the lower house.

Wilders needs two partners for the coalition

To form a majority in the Dutch parliament, Wilders will need to bring two more major political parties into the coalition, and the negotiations are expected to be complicated and lengthy.

If the Freedom Party fails to form a government, a more centrist government without the far right may be created, or new elections may be held.

The record time for forming a government in the Netherlands was 299 days after the May 2021 elections.

Instead, the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy of current Prime Minister Mark Rutte came in third place and will have only 24 seats in the new parliament.

Freedom Party may still end up in the opposition

Purely mathematically, the scandalous winner of the election may remain in opposition, as an alliance with him is unacceptable to most Dutch parties. However, it will not be possible to ignore the voters’ decision.

Wilders played the card of migration and the current government’s inability to agree on the flow of asylum seekers very well.

The leader of the Dutch Freedom Party wants to withdraw the country from the European Union, calls for the “de-Islamization” of the Netherlands and does not want to accept refugees. However, the election result stunned the country.

Like-minded people in Europe have welcomed Wilders’ victory. For example, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban wrote on social media: “The wind of change is here!” Another friend of Wilders, the French far-right Marine Le Pen, praised his “impressive result.”

Wilders founded the Freedom Party (PVV) in 2004, making anti-Islamic policies the core of its views.

Wilders describes Islam as “the ideology of a backward culture” and calls Moroccans “garbage.” He is often compared to former U.S. President Donald Trump for his provocative statements.

Until recently, however, it seemed that the PVV leader’s star was fading as younger representatives of the right-wing spectrum emerged in the Netherlands. However, Wilders’ continued presence in Dutch politics, as well as the increasingly heated debate over immigration, has finally resonated with voters.

Wilders’ campaign key messages

In his campaign, Wilders tried to tone down some of his more radical anti-Islamic statements.

Instead, he took up the theme of growing economic issues, promising to solve the housing crisis and start fighting inflation.

Over the years, Wilders has made many enemies with his aggressive approaches, and almost nobody wants to work with him in a coalition. For many politicians, the far-right leader is persona non grata.

Likewise, ordinary Dutch people cannot believe that Wilders, who moves with bodyguards because of his aggressive statements against Muslims, will represent them on the international stage.

And until recently, few people took him seriously because, thanks to the media’s efforts, Wilders was perceived more as a caricatured character.

Who can become a coalition partner for the far right?

Parties from the current centre-right coalition suffered losses. In particular, Democracy 66 received only 9 seats, the Christian Democratic Appeal – 5, and the Christian Union – 3.

Instead, the alliance of the Left-Greens and Labor, led by former European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans, can be the election winner – it came in second and will receive 25 seats.

Two political parties that are running for the first time also won. The New Social Contract party wins 20 seats, and the Farmers’ Citizens Union, formed amid farmers’ protests in the Netherlands, can count on seven seats.

The Freedom Party has already said it wants a coalition with Rutte’s VVD and the New Social Contract. This coalition will theoretically have 81 seats, which guarantees a stable majority.

The problem is that the leaders of these parties have previously stated that a coalition with right-wing populists is unacceptable.

The new leader of the VVD, Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius, who had previously said that she did not want to form a government with Wilders, said after the election results were announced that the leader of the Freedom Party could not unite the country.

Similarly, the New Social Contract leader, PePieter Omtzigthad, previously named the Freedom Party among those with whom he would not want to form a coalition.

Therefore, those experts who predict that the situation will lead to a constitutional deadlock may be right. And another election may be the way out of this political crisis.

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